Saturday, September 23, 2023

CONFIRMED: Google News Search Results are BIASED

‘This system is specifically designed to reveal the average judgement of Americans across the political spectrum…’

Google's Parent Co. Demanded to Explain Donations to Clinton Foundation, Soros Group
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(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) For years, observers have anecdotally noted the bias that they perceived in Google’s company culture, its news and fact-checking operations, even its search results.

Now, a website called AllSides says it has the research to support some of the charges.

The site took 123 measurements of Google News search results to determine that it leaned 65 percent left, 20 percent center and 16 percent right.

Doing so involved analyzing what media outlet the results at the top of a page came from and cross-referencing those with a proprietary, user-based rating system that compared the relative bias of the outlets.

The study also analyzed the distance in sites of different political philosophies, concluding that, on average, left-leaning sources were included in the top two results and centrist sources in the top five or six. Right-leaning sites typically made their first appearance “below the fold” in the 12th or 13th position, requiring that users scroll down before seeing them.

Despite the objective evidence of bias, however, the report stopped short of saying Google deliberately rigged its search results. Rather, it said it was more likely a byproduct of the company’s philosophy and that of the programmers who designed its algorithms to weigh certain metrics, such as how many people share or interact with a source.

“It is quite possible that any bias is an unintentional outcome of how the news search algorithm currently works or a reflection of the overall state of online news media,” the report said.

Google’s bias, like that within much of the media itself, has been difficult to pinpoint. It is intangible in part because those acting in bad faith blame algorithms and other factors for it, and in part because perceptions of bias tend to operate on a sliding scale with no true middle.

“Someone who considers HuffPo and The New York Times to be centrist will have a very different viewpoint of Google’s bias than someone who considers Fox and The Washington Examiner centrist,” the AllSides report said.

Thus, when other outlets, like PJMedia (whose Aug. 25 analysis President Donald Trump pointed to in a tweet criticizing Google) have previously analyzed Google’s bias, doing so required that they re-calibrate the scale.

AllSides said what makes its analysis unique is the user-driven ratings system. It designed its own, trademarked AllSides Bias Ratings, which purportedly incorporated more than 100,000 user ratings, along with blind surveys, editorial reviews and secondary research.

“Rather than rely on the judgements of journalists or an algorithm based on keywords, both of which are subject to significant bias themselves, this system is specifically designed to reveal the average judgement of Americans across the political spectrum,” the report said.

The AllSides website—which evaluates not only media outlets but also various nonprofit advocacy groups, individual journalists and political figures—allows users to weigh in on whether they agree or disagree with the ratings.

In theory, the more users who weigh in on a source, the more accurate its listing gets—but just in case, AllSides also offers an extra layer of transparency by noting how many people generally agree or disagree with the rating.

While the democratic rating system may retain its own set of flaws and dubious results, giving users greater stake and control in the process is certainly a step in the right direction.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt/Photo by LeWeb14

As for Google, despite the report’s conclusions, questions linger over whether some within the company may seek to influence the searches and introduce additional bias under the banner of social activism.

In September, the Wall Street Journal reported on internal emails from employees that suggested countering the inherent bias in results for terms such as “Islam” and “Mexico.” Google denied that any of the suggestions were implemented.

Google also has been criticized, along with other Silicon Valley heavyweights like Facebook and Twitter, for a company culture that is hostile to conservatives and their ideas, raising the possibility that they may tacitly condone or turn a blind eye to bad actors within their ranks.

AllSides said the decision ultimately rests with Google as to how much bias it chooses to tolerate—once it is finally ready to acknowledge that it has a problem.

“It goes to the core philosophy of Google,” the report said. “Should Google simply reflect the overall Internet even if that means that search results are biased, promote tribalism or institutionalize a mob mentality? Or should Google work to refine its system to provide more breadth and balance of perspective that would enable and empower people to be better informed, think more independently, and appreciate a greater diversity of viewpoints and people?”

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